FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — New electronic machines that allow players to make bets are raising concerns about a possible loophole in Indiana's gambling laws.
The so-called "sweepstakes machines" allow users to buy Internet time and connect to online games like video poker and slots and place bets.
Beth White, owner of Wrigley Field Bar and Grill in Fort Wayne, said the games are legal, unlike the slot-like devices known as Cherry Masters, because users aren't paying for the chance to win a prize. Instead, digital credit or time is bet while playing. A player who wins credits receives a receipt that is cashed out at the bar.
The loophole lies in how prizes are awarded, The Journal Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/pqzxFF ). Unlike slot machines, prizes are paid to winners based on predetermined sweepstakes systems, not by chance.
"It's no different than me playing on my computer at home and possibly winning money," White said.
Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, said the games sound like gambling. The House Public Policy Committee he chairs would likely lead any attempt to close a loophole if one is found.
Ernest Yelton, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, said gambling enforcement officials are investigating whether the games have exposed a loophole in state law but that their probe is complicated by the games' online nature.
The games have proliferated in states such as Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Texas. In some of those states, business owners have opened storefronts known as Internet sweepstakes cafes featuring dozens of computers people can use to play.
Ohio's attorney general has been looking into the cafes to see whether they constitute illegal gambling.
North Carolina has banned the games, but officials say they're open to legalizing the games under certain circumstances.
White hopes Indiana doesn't crack down on the games.
"I just think this state is missing out on a taxable revenue," she said.
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net